How Nobel laureates spend prize money reveals much
By Tom Sullivan, AFPSTOCKHOLM--Nobel laureates sometimes display as much ingenuity when deciding how to spend their prize money as they did on the work that won them the award in the first place.
October 7, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
When Sir Paul Nurse won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2001, he decided to upgrade his motorbike. A fellow winner in 1993, Richard Roberts, installed a croquet lawn in front of his house. Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek, who won in 2004, said the prize meant “financial independence.”
This year's awards get underway on Monday, starting with the medicine prize and wrapping up a week later with the economics prize.
Once the frenzied media attention, formal appearances and ceremonies are over, this year's Nobel laureates will also have to decide how to spend the eight million kronor (US$1.25 million, 925,000 euros) prize money.
And judging from past experience, anything can happen. Sometimes they donate it to charity or scientific research, but that is by no means universal.
Lars Heikensten, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, said there were no obvious shopping trends among laureates.
“I think it depends a lot on which country they come from, their personal finances ... what kind of incomes they have when they get the prize, and where they are in life,” he said.
However real estate is a popular option, at least among those willing to reveal what they spend the money on.
Over a million dollars sounds like a lot but it is often shared between several winners, diluting their Nobel spending power.
Wolfgang Ketterle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who shared the 2001 physics prize with two colleagues, put his share towards a house and his children's education.
“Since half goes to taxes in the U.S., there was nothing (more) left,” he said.
Phillip Sharp, the American co-winner of the 1993 medicine prize, decided to splash out on a 100-year-old Federal style house.
“I took that money and bought a little bit bigger house ... It's a beautiful old place,” he told AFP, adding that “the money is a nice part of the process” but “the important thing about the prize is the recognition.”
Deciding how to spend their money can take some time as new laureates are inundated with offers to attend meetings, lectures and inaugurations during their first year.